Online Doctor Reviews May Be About More Than Just the Doctor

Jennifer Garcia

April 06, 2018

Physicians with negative online reviews do not receive similar reviews on formal institutional patient surveys, yet they often score lower on factors beyond their immediate control when compared with colleagues without negative online reviews, a study has found. These findings were published in the April issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"These findings are important, not only in disassociating formal [institutional] scores from online review comments but also in emphasizing that physicians need to be cognizant of their reputation both online and in-person," and highlights the "stark chasm between patient perception of the physician-related performance and non–physician-specific variables," write R. Jay Widmer, MD, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues.

During a 4-month period from September 1 through December 31, 2014, the researchers identified 113 providers with negative online reviews and matched them with 113 randomly chosen physicians without negative reviews to provide an equal number of physicians representing 28 divisions/departments.

The researchers then compared the Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys (PSSs; a validated tool that evaluates the patient experience across several domains) of the entire cohort during that same period. These PSSs scores were divided into physician-specific and non-physician-specific questions and compared for the entire cohort.

The study authors found that there was no significant difference in the mean PSSs between physicians with negative online reviews (4.05; 95% confidence interval [C], 3.99 - 4.11) and those without (4.04; 95% CI, 3.97 - 4.11; P = .92).

The researchers did note, however, that the mean scores on the non-physician-specific questions were significantly lower among physicians with negative online reviews (3.91; 95% CI, 3.84 - 3.97) compared with those who did not have negative online reviews (4.01; 95% CI, 3.95 - 4.09; P = .02). These non-physician-related issues included things such as wait time, interactions with the front desk staff, billing, and parking.

In an accompanying editorial, Bradley C. Leibovich, MD, from the Department of Urology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, writes, "these findings speak to the leadership of health care organizations as they underscore the totality and integrity of processes, elements, and encounters — and not just the patient-provider interaction — that all need to be effectively and cohesively in place to ensure optimal patient experience and welfare."

The authors suggest that one way to potentially negate the effects of negative reviews from unstructured and unsubstantiated online reviews may be to "allow patients access to vetted physician-specific PSS scores and reviews."

This is a view shared by Leibovich, who notes that the best to way to help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare is through "transparently sharing results of validated measures of patient satisfaction, morbidity and mortality statistics, complication rates, and other quality metrics."

The authors acknowledge that this study included only a small number of physicians over a limited period of time and note that a study over a longer study period of time is warranted.

They conclude, however, "[t]hese data underscore the importance of health care organizations and their physicians to be aware of patient experience content posted on social media platforms and be proactive in managing their online reputation."

The authors and the editorialist have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Mayo Clin Proc. 2018;93:404-405, 453-457. Article full text, Editorial full text

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